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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Joseloff Offers Condolences, Orders Sailing Safety Review

UPDATE Westport First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff today expressed condolences to the family of the 3-year-old girl who died in a sailing tragedy Tuesday and said he had ordered a review of safety procedures at the Longshore Sailing School which operates under a town Image
Alexandra Vitale, 3, is pictured with her father, Michael, and mother, Andrea, in a photo on a prayer card distributed at the girl’s memorial service today in Brooklyn. Contributed photo

“I know I speak for all Westporters in offering our deepest condolences to the family of Alexandra Vitale,” said Joseloff, who was out of town when the incident occurred.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

The girl was sailing in waters off of Cockenoe Island with two cousins, William Howell, 3, and Andrew Howell, 6, and an 18-year-old female sailing instructor, who was not identified, when a gust of wind blew over their Hobie Cat catamaran, police said. The others were rescued safely. (See WestportNow Aug. 27, 2008)

The first selectman and Selectman Shelly Kassen today met with Police Chief Alfred R. Fiore, Parks and Recreation Director Stuart McCarthy, Town Attorney Ira Bloom, and Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly to hear a report on the drowning.

Afterward, Joseloff said: “As police continue to conduct their investigation, I have ordered a town review of all safety policies and procedures at the Longshore Sailing School.

“Our lease with the school provides for certain safety standards for registrants as well as instructors and we want to make sure they were and continue to be followed.”

Joseloff said he was grateful for the efforts of the sailing instructor, the passing Westporter who jumped into the water to assist, and the members of the Westport Police Department Marine Unit, the EMS crews, and police-fire dive team members who responded.

“Clearly, a lot of questions remain to be answered,” he said. “In the meantime, it is imperative that all those who use this facility at the town-owned Longshore Club Park are assured that lessons are conducted in a safe and dependable manner.”

A memorial service for Alexandra was held this morning in Brooklyn.

The New York Daily News reported more than 200 mourners filled the worship hall inside the Quaker Meeting Hall while dozens more watched from outside. It said many had tears in their eyes as the child’s father, Michael, 39, poured out his love to the daughter he described as his sidekick and muse.

“In an indescribable way, she was a part of me,” said Dr. Michael Vitale, a children’s orthopedic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia, according to the News. “Just by making eye contact and gestures, I could have a complete conversation with her.

“The times we had together can never be taken away. They will be with us until the last beat of our hearts.”

The newspaper said in his tribute to his daughter, Vitale said the Longshore Sailing School had an impeccable safety record and attributed Alexandra’s death to nothing more than a terrible accident.


Posted 08/30/08 at 03:42 AM  Permalink


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